Alan Potter, a sculptor based in Scotland who specialises in public art, has won Croydon Council’s £30,000 competition to design and install a sculpture in Purley’s Rotary Fields to commemorate the Surrey Iron Railway, which ran through the town at the dawning of the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago.
Potter’s “Iron Horse” design beat another 22 entrants in the competition, which was announced in November with the intention of producing a work which will celebrate the heritage of one of the first railways in the world.
Croydon Council has yet to confirm the outcome of its competition, but Purley councillors have today named Potter as the winner.
The railway was established by Act of Parliament in 1801 and opened in 1802 as a toll railway, on which carriers used horses to draw laden wagons of coal, building materials, lime, manure, corn and seeds. The track operated until 1837, and at its zenith horse-drawn trains ran all the way from the Thames at Wandsworth through Mitcham, Croydon and Purley, to Merstham and Godstone. Part that track is still visible in Rotary Field.
The sculpture is subject to modification, but is likely to comprise a series of life-sized cast iron “relief panels” of a dray horse pulling loaded wagons on an iron rail.
The art work and competition are being paid for from the ward budgets of five local councillors: Potter was chosen, they say “because of the strength of his idea and his commitment to using opportunities such as these to develop and encourage local art groups and to help nurture a culture of creativity in the places he works”.
“Alan’s design captures something special about Purley’s history and when it is in place it will give residents yet another reason to feel proud of the town they live in,” said Simon Brew, the Conservative councillor for Purley and Woodcote.
“Few are aware of our community’s proud history – how we played host to vital infrastructure that enabled Britain to become the world’s leader in industry and manufacturing.
“Congratulations to Alan for creating such an inspiring design. I look forward to introducing Alan to the local community organisations who will work with him to finalise the product.”
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Horses are the most artistic animals http://bit.ly/horse_art_love
Pedantry alert – the Surrey Iron Railway ran from Wandsworth on the Thames to what is now Reeves corner in Croydon. It never reached Purley. That was a second railway – the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Iron Railway that ran through Rotary field. This sculpture should be in Wandle Park which is near the terminus of the SIR and is bordered by the railway’s route.
A fantastic article about the SIR was printed in this month’s Back Track railway history magazine.